Exactly what to do with it? He was running, trying to think, but it was impossible, he was really scared and feeling his pulse drumming in his head. He had just taken it, just opened the small door (it was really open!) and took the case from inside the church pillar, no one was looking? Really no one?, he stole it, the heart, the national treasure.

He was so scared, so euphoric thinking about his trophy, even so surprised for getting it, like having gained, now in this moment of generalized sorrow and despair, a jewel of world importance, something that no one had and suddenly catapulted him out of the dull row of people waiting for their war-time, state ration. Some sense of proud (of managing something impossible) and of defy (to all their self-proclaimed, well respected, well-fed hierarchy of values, to the state, to the church, to the Germans also) made him run faster, jumping over mud holes, stepping into plashes, rising the dust of the bombed constructions. He thought: the German air raid had already passed…

He pressed it hard in his palm. So, what is it exactly? Is it that I am rich now? I could sell it in a foreign country, but now, during the war, did anyone care about Chopin’s heart? And where to go with it? After the war… but what is after, when is after?

The street was swallowed by his running steps, he didn’t know what to do, where to go, to whom. The bloody monsters, he thought, clericals, big-fat commanders with their metal gaze, never enough I can steal your treasures! The Germans would have anyway sooner or later destroyed or taken it!
And what about Chopin?, he thought. What does it really have to mean this: his no-more heart? an object? this precious, unique, lifeless little mummy, this relict of a non-saint. This somehow alive object, but still, a piece of dead life. Why do they keep it? Why do they worship in a church the heart of a musician? And me, what should I do with it?

He stopped, thought of this useless thing, which wasn’t his, which he didn’t want to have. They should be right: this heart is not mine, it’s his! He thought of getting rid of it, or better bringing it back, sat on a bench. It was humid, chill and he wanted to go home. Without the heart. With this in the pocket step inside the kitchen? Showing it to them? The heart of Chopin? Back home, his mom, they would go scared, they are so superstitious, obedient, credulous, humble, so steady with their reverence, with their back-door values. So what about it? This dried part of someone’s rotten body, the late flesh and blood of him.

His music, he knew it so well. Chopin, a guy that generated this so clear, so clean and precious sound, minimal, restrained, polite, courteous music, he knew the measure, Chopin. A music that flatters and pleases, but also generous, investing in its listener. This distance and excessive aesthetics of this music, that, no, he didn’t like that, a sort of arrogance, the superiority of things done well, precise. And now myself, holding his heart, pressing it in my pocket, after stealing it in the church, this desperation, this fear, I feel like a nothing, a fool, like running for his fame, obeying to his authority, to his official avowal. What do I have to do with this aristocrat, chasing the hedonism of life, in a privileged self-contained world? And Here, Now? All that unimaginable now, in this progressive destruction, this chaos, this unstoppable war…

He suddenly felt really tired, fallen deep inside himself and so, so sad, with this heart in his pocket, someone else’s heart. And back home, all in the same desperation, no money, no place to rest, no space to think, only the hard try to manage every day and the feel of constant danger.

He felt even tired to go back and put it into the pillar. They should have closed already the church by now and so what point does it anyway make to have it back there? Shouldn’t it be the same if it is there or it’s not, as long as people believe it to be? he asked himself quietly. Chopin’s sister brought it in a jar with cognac from France, he remembered, and then thought: a really voluntary heart! Now, it’s again on the move! Always stepping out of its prison… quite powerful, quite quirky, this heart, Chopin’s little coffin, keeping him alive…I am going to keep this heart, my second heart….

The box was feeling soft in his hand inside the pocket. He took it out and looked at it carefully. He slowed down his steps, crossed the street, crossed the people, many people buried in thoughts and heavily worked-out, and stepped into a bar. Round in shape, the box had some wood engraving over a brightly colored brocade coat and golden metal corners; it was so bright, so light!

A sense of pleasure came out of this box, the heart well installed in there, comfortable, warm inside.
….And suddenly falling: A muffle, hollow, heavy and slow sound, exploding everywhere…The sound so big, that it’s impossible to grasp, everything slipping away, the head getting like a stone, the sound seems pressing from all sides, pressing the body, pressing the thoughts, a sort of elation… seems to last forever….a long duration, the heaviness slowly unfolding, repeating, coming again, dust, pain, dust unbreathable. He thought: if I die, the heart will survive death for the second time…

Author: Kerosinee, Lisboa, Portugal
The story was received trough the international short story competition for the project Secret Heart by KOLEKTIVA in 2010.

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